Boy, 15, convicted of running a ‘county lines’ drug-smuggling operation while living in care homes

Boy, 15, convicted of running a ‘county lines’ drug-smuggling operation while living in care homes

  • The 15-year-old was under ‘intense supervision’ by carers at weekly cost of £20k
  • Yet he was able to skip school for 16 months and sell drugs for gang in Liverpool
  • Using his phone, the boy, now aged 17, arranged drug deliveries around the UK
  • The failures by social workers emerged after he was found guilty this month

A teenager living in care homes has been convicted of running a ‘county lines’ drugs network supplying heroin and cocaine worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Despite the 15-year-old supposedly being under ‘intense supervision’ – often by two dedicated carers at an estimated cost of up to £20,000 per week – he was able to bunk off school for 16 months as he sold drugs for a crime gang in Liverpool.

Using his mobile phone, the boy, now aged 17, and who cannot be named for legal reasons, arranged drug deliveries around the country and even sent special offers to regular customers while waiting outside court for a hearing.

A teenager living in care homes has been convicted of running a ‘county lines’ drugs network supplying heroin and cocaine worth hundreds of thousands of pounds (stock image)

A teenager living in care homes has been convicted of running a ‘county lines’ drugs network supplying heroin and cocaine worth hundreds of thousands of pounds (stock image)

The failures by social workers emerged after the boy, along with another teenager, was found guilty at Exeter Crown Court earlier this month of conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

He was first caught drug dealing in 2020, aged 14, and received a youth rehabilitation order with ‘intensive supervision’. He was later also convicted of violent aggravated burglary and arson. The teenager, under the care of Devon County Council, was shifted to several care homes around the UK, including in Wrexham, Colchester and Exeter. He was the only child at four homes and was allocated two dedicated carers at three.

Between October 2020 and February this year, he was arrested five times, but each time was remanded back to the council before linking back up with the Liverpool-based gang. Working alongside the co-accused, who was also under council care, he ran a series of ‘county lines’ drug networks – where illegal drugs are transported from one area to another – using names such as Peter Andre and Scouse Terry. The boys exchanged messages boasting of making £1,200 a day.

During the three-week trial, prosecutor Ray Tully KC said the Liverpool gang ran phone lines operated by trusted helpers, and orders were often delivered by addicts who were paid in drugs.

Working alongside the co-accused, who was also under council care, he ran a series of ‘county lines’ drug networks – where illegal drugs are transported from one area to another – using names such as Peter Andre and Scouse Terry. The boys exchanged messages boasting of making £1,200 a day

Working alongside the co-accused, who was also under council care, he ran a series of ‘county lines’ drug networks – where illegal drugs are transported from one area to another – using names such as Peter Andre and Scouse Terry. The boys exchanged messages boasting of making £1,200 a day

The boy sent £7,000 in cash to Liverpool every three weeks and claimed he was paid £50 a week, plus given clothes and trainers.

Mr Tully said: ‘Wherever he was, he was persistent in supplying class A.’

The boys claimed in court they were victims of modern slavery and were in debt to the gang after drugs in their possession were seized by police during earlier arrests.

Judge Timothy Rose remanded both back into the local authority’s care pending sentencing. A council spokesman said: ‘We won’t talk about specific cases.’

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